Over the last decade, there's been an abundance of information on the benefits of yogurt: the benefits of yogurt in the morning, the benefits of yogurt for women. What are these purported benefits, and are there any downsides to yogurt consumption?
What is Yogurt?
Yogurt, a staple breakfast or snack food, originates from countries in Western Asia and the Middle East. It can best be described as coagulated or curdled milk. The process to make yogurt simply requires heating milk and mixing it with bacteria — Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus — and letting it sit for a number of hours between 110 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit, explains Harvard School of Public Health.
Yogurt comes in a multitude of forms: with sweeteners, thickeners and added fruit. There's natural yogurt, sugar-free yogurt and flavored yogurt. Moreover, it can be served with fresh fruit, nuts and granola for breakfast, or used in savory sauces and salad dressings.
Whichever way you choose to consume yogurt, there's no denying its benefits. Yogurt contains an abundance of nutrients, as well as gut-healthy probiotics. Better yet, it can often be enjoyed by those with lactose intolerance. Although it does contain lactose, the concentration is low and lactose is broken down into lactic acid by the bacteria. While yogurt is mostly healthy, you should watch out for added sugar, which can contribute calories.
Read more: The 6 Best Yogurts and 4 to Avoid
Benefits of Yogurt
Most of yogurt's benefits result from two components: its nutrients and its bacterial strains. More specifically, yogurt:
Helps build stronger bones: According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), dairy foods are a fantastic source of vitamin D, which helps build strong bones. Tufts University recommends yogurt for the elderly, as it's rich in calcium and vitamin D, which can enhance bone-mineral density.
Lowers the risk of high blood pressure: Tufts University points out that yogurt-eaters are more likely to have lower blood pressure. High blood pressure can lead to hypertension, which is one of the greatest risk factors for cardiovascular disease. According to Semanticscholar.org, certain studies indicate an inverse relationship between the consumption of dairy products and hypertension.
Decreases inflammation: The VA suggests that consuming low-fat yogurt can help decrease inflammation. You can tack that onto the list of benefits of yogurt for females, who are more likely to have inflammatory autoimmune diseases. Eating yogurt won't cancel out a heavy caloric meal, but it has been shown to lower inflammatory markers in women.
Contains probiotics: Certain bacterial strains found in yogurt may influence the risk of certain diseases, including irritable bowel syndrome, type 2 diabetes, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, says Harvard School of Public Health. Though there's not much definitive information on the influence of gut bacteria, it seems that the yogurt bacteria does indeed change the composition of the intestinal landscape.
Provides essential nutrients (B2, B12, calcium, zinc, magnesium): Not to mention, yogurt contains a hefty amount of protein. Overall, yogurt is rich in protein, phosphorus, calcium and B vitamins. The food is so nutritious that the Dairy Council of California recommends individuals older than nine, consume three servings of yogurt per week.
May help control weight gain: Those who consume yogurt regularly were found to be better able to manage their weight, according to Tufts University.
Disadvantages of Yogurt
The disadvantages of yogurt are few, and manageable in many cases. Something to watch out for when purchasing yogurt: added sugar. Harvard School of Public Health says that some yogurts can contain up to 20 to 25 grams of sugar per container. And added sugar contributes to calorie intake without adding essential nutrients, says Health.gov.
Often times, yogurt marked specifically for children or toddlers contain higher amounts of sugar. What's more, fat-free products will often add more sugar for better flavor. Tufts University suggests watching out for labeling that distracts from nutritional content, such as labeling yogurt as organic. Most likely it has the same amount of added sugar as regular yogurt. Bottom line: check labels.
One January 2015 study from Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, found that regular consumption of yogurt did not improve health. Researchers who analyzed 4,000 participants, declared there was no link between yogurt and the physical and mental parameters analyzed.
- Harvard School of Public Health: "Yogurt"
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: "VA Dietician Encourages Eating Yogurt for Health Benefits"
- Tufts University: "What's So Great About Yogurt?"
- Dairy Council of California: "Nutrients in Yogurt"
- Semanticscholar.org: "New Scientific Evidence on the Benefits of Yoghurt Consumption"
- Health.gov: "Cut Down on Added Sugars"
- Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Habitual Yogurt Consumption and Health-Related Quality of Life: A Prospective Cohort Study"